Return of the Zombie Planning
The Story So Far
In advance of the publication of its draft 2019 Local Development Plan (LDP), Inverclyde
Council responded to a campaign by Kilmacolm Residents Association (and other community
bodies) and removed from the proposed plan a greenbelt housing site on the edge of the
village of Kilmacolm. This site (known snappily as “West of Quarry Drive” or WOQD) had
been identified by the Council as a possible housing site in the Main Issues Report (MIR), but
the Council was persuaded that, since there was already a healthy surplus of housing land in
the Renfrewshire sub-Housing Market Area (in which Kilmacolm is situated), there was no
need to add further capacity.
The Council’s position was challenged by the would-be developers of WOQD during the
Examination of the proposed LDP but was upheld by the Reporter. The LDP was
subsequently approved by Scottish Ministers and came into effect. Kilmacolm residents
breathed a sigh of relief and got on with their lives.
The assumption that, having had a fair hearing at the Council and during the Examination,
these two green belt sites were dead and buried, however, proved to be premature.
In June 2020, a group of developers including MacTaggart & Mickel Homes Ltd (would-be
developer of WOQD) appealed to the Court of Session against Inverclyde Council’s decision
to adopt the 2019 LDP1. The Court found that the Reporter who had examined the LDP had
erred in his assessment of the methodology used to calculate the adequacy of the housing
land supply in a number of ways. The Examination Report contained material errors and so
Chapter 7 of the LDP (dealing with housing) on which it was based was materially flawed
and should be quashed.
The effect of the Court’s ruling was to leave Inverclyde Council without a housing land policy
and, under the then current version of Scottish Planning Policy2 this opened up a free-for-all
environment in which it would be difficult for Inverclyde Council to refuse any planning
application for housing development, however unwelcome.
And so it came to pass that WOQD became undead.
1 See  CSIH 44 XA108/19
2 Scottish Planning Policy has subsequently been amended in response partly to this case and partly to another
case involving proposed green belt development in Inverclyde. The legality of these amendments is now being
challenged by developers in the Court of Session!
Now Read On
In October 2020 MacTaggart & Mickel submitted a planning application for approximately
78 houses on the WOQD site.
In the meantime, Inverclyde Council published an interim statement on housing land and
published a Main Issues Report in anticipation of rapidly producing a new Local
Development Plan to replace the one eviscerated by the Court of Session. In the MIR,
Inverclyde Council purports to find that there is a shortage of housing land in “the
Inverclyde part of the Renfrewshire sub-Housing Market Area”. This is a startling conclusion
because the Council previously acknowledged that the supply situation should be
considered across the Renfrewshire SHMA as a whole (where there is an undisputed surplus
of housing land). On the strength of this volte-face, Inverclyde Council’s MIR then proposed
several additional housing sites be added including WOQD.
In April 2021, the Inverclyde Council Planning Board considered the WOQD application. The
Officers’ Report was quite clear that the application was contrary to the current
Development Plan (even though Chapter 7 of the LDP had been quashed) but,
notwithstanding this, recommended that the board recommend to the Council that the
application be given consent. In a revealing summing-up, officers described the Council as
being in “an invidious position” because, if the application were refused or not determined,
by May 5th, the applicants would be likely to appeal to the Scottish Government. It was
noted that WOQD was a proposed site in the emerging new LDP, and this was used as
justification for approving the application despite the fact that the draft LDP had not then
been published, never mind consulted on, examined or approved by Scottish Ministers.
Needless to say, Kilmacolm Residents are lobbying Councillors ahead of their meeting this
week in the hope that the planning board’s recommendation to approve this application will
be overturned. Of course, even if the Council does do the right thing and refuse the
application this time, it will probably still refuse to die.
Return of the Zombie Planning